Following the recent post I made about the potential stress of change, I found myself in discussion with a colleague (one who seems to always casually and inadvertently hit me with a bit of wisdom) about this issue in-between a series of fairly perfunctory meetings we were joint chairing. He mentioned the extract below - well, he mentioned it as something he had a faint memory of, and from there, we raced each other to search it up on the internet!
"The Station by Robert J. Hastings
The station is an illusion - it constantly outdistances us
Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision in which we see ourselves on a long journey that spans an entire continent. We're traveling by train and, from the windows, we drink in the passing scenes of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at crossings, of cattle grazing in distant pastures, of smoke pouring from power plants, of row upon row upon row of cotton and corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of city skylines and village halls.
But uppermost in our conscious minds is our final destination--for at a certain hour and on a given day, our train will finally pull into the station with bells ringing, flags waving, and bands playing. And once that day comes, so many wonderful dreams will come true. So restlessly, we pace the aisles and count the miles, peering ahead, waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.
"Yes, when we reach the station, that will be it!" we promise ourselves. "When we're eighteen. . . win that promotion. . . put the last kid through college. . . buy that 450SL Mercedes-Benz. . . have a nest egg for retirement!"
From that day on we will all live happily ever after. Sooner or later, however, we must realize there is no station in this life, no one earthly place to arrive at once and for all. The journey is the joy. The station is an illusion--it constantly outdistances us. Yesterday's a memory, tomorrow's a dream. Yesterday belongs to a history, tomorrow belongs to God. Yesterday's a fading sunset, tomorrow's a faint sunrise. Only today is there light enough to love and live.
So, gently close the door on yesterday and throw the key away. It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad, but rather regret over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.
"Relish the moment" is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss more babies, count more stars. Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot oftener. Eat more ice cream. Ride more merry-go-rounds. Watch more sunsets. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough."
I think, on reflection, our belief in a perfect final destination emerges from our traditional Judeao-Christian culture - the longstanding vision of heaven as an afterlife, the premise of a final day of judgement. We, growing up in this culture, naturally tend to take a wholly linear view of time. Whether we believe in a heavenly afterlife or not (as it happens, I do not), we are indoctrinated into the idea of journeying - and struggling - from one fixed point to another fixed point. In our increasingly hypo-capitalist culture, as Robert J. Hastings perhaps alludes to, this spiritual journey has seemingly become fused with primarily materialistic milestones. We become fixed on getting to each milestone, on the idea that we must grab each opportunity on our fixed route or it will be forever left behind, on the belief that if we do X and Y in Z amount of time we will reach our utopia and be forever happy.
Again, I find my dipping-of-toes into Eastern philosophy helps challenge this. In Eastern cultures, particularly those finding root in Buddhism and Hinduism, time is at least in part cyclical.
From here, we can reflect that we are perhaps each locked in a spiral of opportunities for creation & fruition and unavoidable points of destruction, at a universal level, communal level and deeply personal level. We can approach opportunities for change more reasonably, feeling fairly confident they probably won't be the last and similar ones will come again, whilst also being realistic enough to know that even the greatest fruit any opportunity might bare is bound for destruction. We must, as much as we can, simply appreciate and enjoy being part of this process.